Harold Garfinkel Breaking Social Norms

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Social norms are rules that have been ingrained in society and people for hundreds of years. These societal rules can be anything from not talking to strangers on the subway to wearing weather appropriate clothes in public. Yet, when these societal norms are broken, the observers, as well as the person who destroyed the norm, are affected. Societal norms play in large role in how a person conducts him or herself when interacting with others. When deciding what social interaction, I would break, I wanted to do something that would be easy for me to fully commit to without facing too much embarrassment. I chose to violate the social norm of using the appropriate utensils when eating. This social norm is taught to people at very young ages, usually…show more content…
Harold Gafinkel defined ethnomethodology as the study of how people use common sense understating to make sense of life. Ethnomethodology relies heavily on social norms and their obvious presence in a community. Garfinkel, while studying ethnomethodology, performed a series of breaching exercises in which he broke social norms. Similar to Garfinkel’s experiments, the breaking of using appropriate utensils called the observers to question my common sense and understanding of social conventions. The standard belief of what utensils should be used for eating a particular dish was destroyed when I used a fork to eat soup and a spoon to eat a salad. Therefore, the standard table manners were completely ignored in my misuse of the utensils. In addition to Garfinkel's concept of ethnomethodology, this breaking of a social norm experiment can be analyzed in terms of Erving Goffman’s impression management. Goffman says that people are very much concerned with two types of the presentation of self, verbal and nonverbal communication. Also, people try desperately to manage how they are presented in society in order to control what people think of them and their roles in certain social situations. In regard to my experiment, I tried to give the impression of normal behavior so I would not draw attention to myself. Giving off a very normal impression when breaking a social norm for an experiment is critical to receive unbiased and accurate results. Yet, the observers of my experiment got to see what I am like when I have no control over my impression management, so much so that I am purposefully breaking social norms to see the reactions. I was extremely vulnerable when I was breaking the social norm because I was opening myself up to criticism and embarrassment. It did prove to be a good test of my ability to give off a relatively normal impression when knowingly making a socially incorrect
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